- Associated Press - Friday, June 5, 2015

MARIETTA, Ga. (AP) - The Center for Children and Young Adults, a group home for youth, celebrated its 30th anniversary Thursday with a ribbon-cutting for a new outdoor recreational area.

Center board member Mike DeWitt said the event is a celebration of 30 years of service in Cobb.

“People can take campus tours and they’re going to have basketball games with the kids with ‘celebrity’ referees,” DeWitt said.

The center is made up of a three-building campus - at 2221 Austell Road near Osborne High School - and offers a dormitory-type setting for up to 39 young people at a time. Residents range from age 7 to 20.

Center CEO Kim Borna, a former child abuse lawyer, said the new facilities were paid for through a $100,000 grant from Atlanta-based charity A Million Matters.

Included in the new facilities are a full volleyball court, full basketball court, two four-square playing areas, barbecue area and pavilions.

“We went from having one basketball goal by the dumpster in the loading dock, which is a horrible, smelly, awful place, for 30 years,” Borna said. “It (now) has a full basketball court and it has six goals, so we can even do two half-courts, which is great.”

She said the improvements will vastly expand what the center will be able to offer its residents.

“We have over 200 people from the community volunteer every year, and a lot of them come in and do barbecues, activities, games, life-skills and bringing meals to the kids, so this is giving us a whole new area for our volunteers to spend time and engage with the kids,” Borna said.

The Center for Children and Young Adults is a nonprofit with an operating budget of about $2.6 million.

Borna said the center is mostly funded by county grants, private grants and individual donations.

“There’s a lot of generosity in Cobb County for the center,” Borna said.

She said Cobb County deeded a property on Fairground Street behind Zaxby’s to the center, which the center leases and receives rental income from.

Additionally, Borna said Circle for Children has held an annual fundraiser for the past eight years that has raised between $75,000 and $110,000 for the center. Borna also said Circle for Children provides a birthday cake for every child in the center every year.

“We serve about 154 kids a year, and they make sure every youth gets their own birthday cake, which is huge,” Borna said. “Circle for Children is the best partner that anyone could have and we’re very grateful to partner with them.”

DeWitt said the center offers a safe and nurturing environment for children and young people who don’t have anywhere else to go.

“Essentially, what they do is provide emergency and ongoing shelter for youth who have been abused, neglected or otherwise abandoned by their parents, whoever their caregivers are, so they’re in a pretty desperate situation,” DeWitt said. “If you think about it, they come in (from) a lot of pretty traumatic situations and (the center) offers them not only shelter but a home.”

Borna said the center has a range of therapeutic services, such as animal-assisted therapy with four therapy dogs, art therapy and music therapy. It has a music director, choir, band, step team and photography club. The center also provides three meals a day and transportation to schools or jobs.

Borna said children come to the center through a variety of circumstances, including drug-addicted parents, homelessness, domestic abuse or what she characterized as “unsafe, unwilling or unavailable caregivers.”

She said some stay for less than 30 days but the majority are at the center for 90 days or more.

“Each young person who comes to us comes with a really different and unique story,” Borna said. “A lot of our kids suffer chronic trauma, not just an acute, one-time event.”

Borna said the children in the center are not juvenile delinquents, which she said is a mistake a lot of people have made.

“We really do not like it when people in the community want to confuse us with the Juvenile Detention Center . They are not in this situation because of something they have done,” Borna said. “Some of my kids have obituaries hanging on their wall because their parents are deceased.”

Borna said she thinks highly of the children in the center.

“My kids are amazing kids. I think they’re brave and courageous,” Borna said. “I’d just love for people to know and admire our kids, not feel sorry for them, because our kids are strong and they are working hard for themselves.”

___

Information from: Marietta Daily Journal, https://mdjonline.com/

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